Johor Darul Ta’zim vs Song Lam Nghe An: Odds stacked against 2015 winners
JDT’s mission impossible
Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) are on the verge of an AFC Cup group stage exit for the first time since winning the competition in 2015.
The club started the competition brightly with a 3-0 win over Persija Jakarta on the opening day but they have recorded just one win in the following four rounds, losing two and obtaining a point away to Tampines.
The Southern Tigers currently sit third in Group H with seven points, three points behind Song Lam and group leaders Persija.
Mathematically JDT can still reach the ASEAN Zonal Semi-Final by finishing top of the group or through the best second-placed team route, but they need the group finale to be a high-scoring affair.
Should JDT do their part, they will need a high scoring win by Ceres in Bacolod to overcome Home United’s superior goal advantage
JDT must convincingly defeat Song Lam and hope Tampines Rovers, who have only picked up one point thus far, defeat the Indonesians. That would leave all teams level on 10 points and goal difference, which do not favour JDT, would decide who tops the group.
Persija have a plus five goal difference while Song Lam have scored four more than they conceded. JDT on the other hand, have a goal difference of minus two.
Should Persija get at least a draw, JDT will finish second with a 1-0 win on Tuesday because of their head to head record against the Vietnamese.
Singapore’s Home United are currently hot favourites to be the best second placed side as they have 10 points and a plus seven goal count. They play high-scoring Ceres Negros away from home on Wednesday, with both teams looking to top the group.
Should JDT do their part, they will need a high scoring win by Ceres in Bacolod to overcome Home United’s superior goal advantage.
There was one glaring omission from the JDT line-up in their shock 3-0 FA Cup defeat to Pahang over the weekend and he – 2015 AFC Cup most valuable player Safiq Rahim – is expected to return to the line-up on Tuesday.
It will be interesting to see who takes the field around him. JDT have played a rather second-string looking side in previous AFC Cup matches, even when they desperately needed a result against Persija in the penultimate round.
The club appear to have already shifted their focus to the Malaysia Super League (MSL), which will guarantee a place in the 2019 AFC Champions League.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Safiq Rahim: Benched in the previous two games, the skipper may be fired up to prove he should be among the first names on the teamsheet. Safiq has had some good games this season, especially in the AFC Cup. There have been a rise of younger central midfielders in the country in recent times but none are as complete a player as Safiq.
FACTS AND FIGURES
JDT have seen their 52-match unbeaten home run end but they have yet to taste an AFC Cup defeat at Larkin Stadium.
JDT have 15 wins at home in 17 matches since 2015. The other two matches ended in 1-1 draws against South China (2015) and Bengaluru (2016).
JDT 1 Song Lam 0: A big win may be a tough ask considering the deficiencies in the squad but JDT have enough in them to win this tie.